In a first of its kind judgement in sports media rights piracy case an offender has been sentenced to a five-year jail term.
In a first of its kind landmark judgement, a man who was providing illegal signals of the English Premier League television feed has been sentenced to five years in jail. The offender ran an operation providing illegal access to the English Premier League football matches has been handed a jail sentence of five years and three months for what a judge described as a “very sophisticated fraud”.
The Newcastle Chronicle newspaper said the case concerned Evolution Trading, a company operated from the town of Blyth by John Haggerty, along with his wife Mary Gilfillan. The court heard customers would pay £15 (€17/$20) a month for the streaming service that offered live feeds of Premier League matches from overseas broadcasters and Hollywood movies via a set top box costing £75 to £100 for members of the public or £400 for pubs. Around 8,000 of these devices were said to have been sold, while Evolution also created and sold access to its own illegal streaming service – infusum.tv.
Evolution started operating in March 2013 and Judge Simon Batiste acknowledged that the company had begun to wind down by July 2015. However, he added: “The position was when you first started selling boxes you didn’t believe that to be illegal, but very quickly you realised the illegality of what you were doing. You generated receipts totalling £764,000 from the sale of set top boxes. You opened a shop, and set up a subscription services undermining and undercutting those provided by legitimate providers. Part of the fraud involved overturning and stopping security measures to dstop such fraud taking place, including using computer hackers.
“An investigation by the Federation Against Copyright Theft led to searches being carried out, including at Ridley Place, your home address, and incriminating items were found. I’m told that the business was winding down, and I’m prepared to accept that. The prosecution argues that losses were incurred by the Premier League and filmmakers that ran into the millions. In my judgement it’s clear the losses would clearly run into excess of a million pounds.”
Haggerty’s wife was given a suspended prison sentence for her role in the operation. David Groome, while prosecuting, added: “This concerns a highly sophisticated fraud committed against numerous broadcasters throughout the world and those who have an interest in the content, including the FA Premier League and the film industry. The conspiracy was coordinated by Mr Haggerty, assisted by his wife Mrs Gilfillan. She played a subordinate role but was a willing participant in the fraud. Some 8,000 IPTV set top devices were provided…which enabled pay-TV to be viewed without any payment to the relevant broadcasters and content owners.”